Business Irish

Saturday 19 October 2019

Call for more people to pay income tax to reduce burden on middle and higher earners

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Collins
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Collins
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

TOO many people have been taken out of the income tax net, putting a huge burden on middle and higher earners.

There is a need for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to broaden the income tax base in the Budget, according to the Irish Institute of Tax.

And there was a warning that a steep rise in the carbon tax on petrol, diesel and solid fuels will mean the Government tax take of €3.5bn a year from the taxes and levies on fuels may actually fall.

President of the institute Frank Mitchell said it was not sustainable that so many people are exempt from income tax and the universal social charge (USC).

Recent changes have meant that almost three quarters of a million workers no longer pay the USC.

And close to one million workers do not pay any income tax as their earnings fall below the threshold for paying it.

This is out of a total of 2.8 million taxpayers

Mr Mitchell said: “A system that exempts more than three quarters of a million out of a total of 2.7 million income earners, from paying any tax is not sustainable.

“We need a broader base where the load is spread according to the means of taxpayers.”

The institute is a representative group for tax professionals.

Figures produced by the institute show that corporate tax is expected to yield €10bn this year.

But income tax, USC and pay related social insurance (PRSI) combined are expected to yield three times more, at €34.1bn.

The institute said that the tax system was too dependant on income taxes, and questioned why so few workers pay income tax or USC.

Mr Mitchell said: “We believe that everybody who works should contribute to the exchequer according to their means and that those who earn most, should contribute most.”

Recent changes to USC have meant the burden of that charge was increasingly falling on middle and higher earners.

Calculations show that those earning more than €100,000 pay half of all income tax and USC.

Income tax payers in this country pay a marginal tax rate of 48.5pc on salaries over €35,500, the income level where the higher 40pc income tax rate kicks in.

Workers hit the 40pc tax rate on a much lower level of income than competitor countries.

Those earning more than €70,000 have a marginal tax rate of 52pc.

Asked why it was advocating that lower earners should pay more tax, while corporations should not pay more, chief executive of the Irish Tax Institute Martin Lambe said both income tax and corporate taxes were heavily dependent a small number of payers.

He said corporates are employers, and said our income tax system was very progressive.

When asked if corporates should pay more tax, Mr Lambe said: “It is a political decision.”

But he added: “Everyone who benefits from state services should pay something but based on an ability to pay.”

He said there was a need for a broad mix of corporate, income, property and environmental taxes.

Any move in the Budget to impose higher carbon taxes could see the yield from taxes and duties on petrol, diesel and solid fuel falling back.

The State takes in €3.5bn in taxes, duties and carbon tax on fuels.

Mr Mitchell said: “There is always going to be a cost with a measure like carbon tax. If you introduce a measure it changes behaviour, but you have to look at what cost there will be.”

He said carbon taxes are regressive as they hit the poor and rural dwellers harder.

Imposing a €20 per tonne increase in the carbon tax would add €3.39 to the cost of petrol for a 60 litre fill for a vehicle. It would see diesel go up by €3.93, and a bag of coal by 52c.

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